Readings of LÚ in Old Babylonian Letters
In OB letters, the LÚ sign has three readings: 1) LÚ renders the noun awīlum ‘man human being;’ 2) LÚ is the determinative preceding terms for male human beings; 3) LÚ corresponds to the headless ša in references to human beings. This paper proposes the ways to ascertain the correct reading of LÚ in a given context. First, we have established that in letters from Upper Mesopotamia (Mari etc.) the freely standing LÚ = awīlum greatly outnumbers syllabic spellings of awīlum, while in letters from Southern and Central Mesopotamia syllabic spellings are by far more frequent. This fact may be relevant for the description and history of the written Old Babylonian. Second, LÚ preceding terms for persons or groups of persons either reperesents awīlum as an antecedent in appositive constructions or is the determinative. This study shows that LÚ should be understood as the determinative in the context of occupational and social category terms, as well as in that of collective nouns. LÚ as the determinative is more widely used in Upper Mesopotamia than in Southern and Central Mesopotamia. LÚ = awīlum is plausible when LÚ precedes personal names and kinship terms. This usage is a hallmark of Upper Mesopotamian letters. Yet these results do not allow us to predict the interpretation of the LÚ sign in every case.
Third, the LÚ sign appears in the context of occupational terms which etymologically are noun phrases headed by the erstwhile demonstrative pronoun ša (e.g., LÚ.BAN = ša qāštim ‘archer’). Moreover, we show that LÚ preceding place names can also be interpreted as ša, e.g. LÚ ter-qa KI = ša Terqa ‘(that) of Terqa’, i.e. ‘a man related to Terqa’ in one way or another.